As I continue with a long-term cultural investigation of the bioregion in which I live, Cascadia, an investigation that includes a (hopefully) annual poetry festival, a Massive Open Online Course on the bioregion’s innovative poetry and an anthology, I begin to see information through this lens.
And two recent articles were quite illuminating regarding Cascadia culture and that of cities in other bioregions, specifically New York and San Francisco.
The first article was about how New York City is fighting Airbnb, which is described in the New York Times article as a “pioneering home-rental service.” Of course realize the HUGE business hotels have in NYC and you can understand whose ox is being gored here. As an Airbnb host here in Seattle renting out rooms in the home of my spiritual community, Subud, you can imagine where I stand on the issue. But it’s more than trying to eke out a little dough outside the purview of gangster-like corporate entities, I am with Jeremy Rifkin who sees the cultural shift away from corporations and to something with a more human face. I know, corporations ARE people in USAmerica, but I mean people who breathe, who can put in jail for their misbehavior and who know what real hosting means. Real people hosting real people is how the Canadian blogger described it and those of us who know that capitalism has run amok embrace the emerging sharing economy Rifkin has written about. Dig how the NYTimes describes the argument over this part of it:
Admirers say these stars of the so-called sharing economy are breaking up monopolies that have grown greedy and lazy. They are empowering individuals. Critics say that the start-ups are unsavory efforts to avoid regulation and taxes, and that the very term “sharing economy” is ridiculous.
Here’s how James E. Miller puts it in his post:
Airbnb is a nemesis to the stifling nature of the state. Where bureaucrats domineer the playing field under government-supervision, peer-to-peer networks connect people without obtrusion. They slash the cost of doing business by eliminating the middle man. They are empowering, and allow for a more mutually-beneficial economy.
Although commenters are quick to point out that Airbnb IS the middle man, so not eliminated, but transformed along with the culture which matches people with others of a like-mind.
In San Francisco, the real estate market is so hot, long-tome residents with stable rents are being evicted so landlords can be part of the casino-capitalism gone wild there. For so long Seattle has been a place that did not want to “be like San Francisco” even though wood from here built SF and mail for here and from here went through SF to get to its final destination. The ties are many and now the dot coms are creating a similar environment as Amazon expands its empire and is primed to hire thousands of new employees. The locals here like to call these new arrivals “Amholes.”
And one response to the boom in Seattle real estate has been to create teeny-tiny homes some call “hipster hovels” and others liken to the boarding houses of the late 19th century. The term is “micro-housing” and homes are as small as 192 square feet. This is what most USAmericans call a Storage Unit.
The well-written article by Sarah Solovitch calls Seattle “the country’s fastest growing city” and illustrates ultimately, what drives Seattle. Cash, but with the veneer of an equitable process and less like the mafiosos that run NYC. Kill you with kindness capitalism. The article highlights activists on each side of the argument for microhousing, including a recent transplant from, you guessed it, California, who said:
“I just don’t think [micro-apartments] belong in a low-rise zone where someone has invested half a million in a townhouse and then 56 people move in next door.” (Bill Bradburd, chair of “Seattle Neighborhood Coalition.”)(Note the doublespeak title of the group.)
It’s interesting that class warfare is when low income folks work for what’s equitable, but when people like Bill Bradford do it, it’s not class warfare, it’s “protecting his investment.”
So, Seattle is more open to things like Airbnb and microhousing, and either accepting these developments, these reactions to casino capitalism, or lobbying city councilmembers to enact regulations that will slowly kill off the microhousing boom while occasionally allowing low-income artists a place like the recently-opened Mt. Baker Lofts. This is consistent with the passive aggression some have come to call “Seattle Nice.” We like poor people, but don’t want them around here.
It’s bad enough what the yuppie generation has done in terms of income inequality with the top 1% getting SO much richer while the recent economic “recovery” is limited to the realm of corporate profits and not, in the words of the great liberator and union buster Ronald Reagan, trickling down.
Wet, white, polite and more benign, with access but little influence, welcome to Seattle newcomers. Be sure to contribute to the food bank on the way to your broker.